Iowa again failed to break 400 yards of offense, something they haven’t done since October 1, 2021, as they beat Western Michigan, 41-10, in a score aided by garbage time points from the Hawkeye offense. I wish I could say the win was convincing, but it was decidedly not as Iowa struggled throughout another Week 3 game interrupted by a storm, just like last year’s Week 3 encounter with Nevada. The 41 points scored by Iowa is the most scored since that same October night in 2021, a 51-14 win over Maryland.
Iowa opened with the ball, but that drive ended with a slick one-handed interception by Anthony Enechukwu. Drive one, nothing going.
The teams traded punts, and then a disastrous sequence started for the Hawkeyes. Western Michigan struck first on a busted coverage along the sideline. Treyson Bourguet connected with Anthony Sambucci on a 64-yard touchdown, with Jermai Harris and Xavier Nwankpa not on the same page leaving Sambucci wide open for the long score.
WESTERN MICHIGAN LEADS IOWA!! pic.twitter.com/ssU5O2N4LI— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) September 16, 2023
The game then entered The Twilight Zone, as lightning within an 8-mile radius of Kinnick Stadium forced a 42-minute weather delay.
The delay seemed to jolt the offense a bit, but not before things then went from weird to outright bad, as Iowa suffered a double whammy on their next drive. After driving inside the Western Michigan 25, Iowa was faced with 3rd and 3. The pass went to Luke Lachey and he was tackled immediately short of the sticks, with his right ankle bending in ways it should not bend. Lachey left the field on crutches, only to return with a boot on his leg. On the next play, Drew Stephens badly missed a 41-yard field goal - the kick was not close - to keep Iowa in a 7-0 hole. Uh oh.
Iowa’s defense bowed up, forcing a punt on the next Western Michigan drive, and thanks to a big Cooper DeJean punt return, Iowa immediately marched down the field to tie the game. A long Leshon Williams run of 53 yards put Iowa inside the Western Michigan 10, and Cade McNamara ended the drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Diante Vines, Vines’s first touchdown as a Hawkeye. Good play, good route, good throw.
CADE MCNAMARA TO A WIDE OPEN DIANTE VINES TOUCHDOWN HAWKEYES— SuperHawkeyeFan (@superhawkeyefan) September 16, 2023
Iowa’s good fortune was short-lived, as the Western Michigan offense carved the defense up yet again, driving inside the Iowa 10 before settling for a field goal and a 10-7 advantage.
Iowa stalled, but a great Tory Taylor punt was downed at the 1. Western Michigan was immediately forced to punt, which Cooper DeJean returned to the Western Michigan 25. On the next play, Iowa ran a brilliant screen to Leshon Williams as Western Michigan blitzed, allowing Williams to walk into the end zone for a quick score that put the Hawkeyes up 14-10.
The 1-play touchdown drive: pic.twitter.com/7nD6QOyDK4— Ryan M. Jaster (@Hawkologist) September 16, 2023
Iowa forced a quick 3-and-out from the Western Michigan offense, but could not convert at the end of the half. Williams dropped a pass in which he had acres of space to run into. Nico Ragaini dropped a pass after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit that somehow wasn’t reviewed. A quick route to Erick All was batted down at the line. Then a play later, Cade McNamara’s pass to Seth Anderson was intercepted in the endzone for a 14-10 halftime lead.
Iowa’s defense answered the call right after halftime, ending the Broncos first drive with a Joe Evans sack. Another good return from DeJean put Iowa in business at midfield, but the drive ended in a punt back to the Broncos.
Western Michigan took over after a shaky Taylor punt - what the hell is happening right now??? - but the defense again bailed everyone out with a quick Nick Jackson sack as Bourguet was throwing the ball, and the pass sailed backwards for a big loss. Iowa’s special teams then blocked a punt - Anterio Thompson was all over special teams today, nearly blocking a punt in the first half as well - to put Iowa up 16-10. The block was so emphatic that it ricocheted off Thompson’s facemask and out of the back of the end zone.
Iowa took the kickoff from the safety and immediately started to eat with the ground game. The drive ended with a 3-yard Kamari Moulton touchdown, his first career score in an Iowa uniform. Iowa then went for 2 and converted, with Erick All finding the end zone to put Iowa up 24-10.
The Iowa defense again came up big, pushing Western Michigan into a 3rd and long situation. Bourguet eluded pressure - finally, Iowa’s front four is cooking a little - but Jackson forced a fumble that was recovered by Jeremiah Pittman at the 17.
Three plays later, Moulton was in the end zone again, this time from 1 yard out. Iowa nearly turned it over on the second play of the drive - Moulton was stripped as he was reaching for the end zone, but Steven Stillianos recovered at the 1 - but Iowa finally breached the 30-point mark this year, pushing the lead to 31-10.
Western Michigan would not go quietly into the night, as they steadily drove on the next drive and looked to cut the score to 31-16 on a 60-yard touchdown pass, but an ineligible receiver downfield penalty - Western’s eighth penalty of the day - chalked that score off. The teams then traded punts before Iowa tacked on more points, knocking a 31-yard field goal through before adding on another garbage time touchdown to go up 41-10, scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run from Max White that is scored this year, and this year only.
I wish I could be more optimistic. One of the few positives was the ground game finally chewing up an inferior defense - the Hawks ended with 254 yards rushing on 43 attempts, good for just under 6 yards a carry. But Iowa lost their starting tight end to injury - that looked like an awful injury, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Kirk Ferentz says post-game that it’s a season-ender - and made numerous errors. After looking markedly improved in pass protection the first two weeks, Iowa gave up four sacks today. If the ball wasn’t out quickly, the line caved. The offense scuffled with a lesser opponent overall, and their previous offensive output somehow looks worse after Utah State was steamrolled by Air Force Friday night and Iowa State lost away to a MAC team, 10-7. The defense didn’t look like it’s normal self in the first half. They course-corrected in the second half, but the first half raised serious flags. I am not looking forward to next week, a serious opponent in a viper pit of an environment.
Let’s leave it with this.